Q: Is it legal to have the full credit card number printed on a receipt? I made a purchase at a convenience store using my Citi MasterCard and the full account number was printed!
A: I remember back as a teenager when I bought my very first car (it was a Taurus, if you’re curious) and the dealership forgot to clean out the glove compartment – inside were a stash of receipts from the previous owner, with the full credit card account numbers printed on them!
Fortunately, that problem should never be happening nowadays. There are credit card receipt laws (both federal and state) which restrict what information can be printed on the customer’s receipt. Here’s a look at the federal law that both consumers and business need to know about:
- In 2003, the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) was signed into law. It’s most well known for giving us free credit reports once per year, but it also addresses a number of other issues, including the requirement that credit card numbers must be truncated on receipts.
- Today, electronically printed receipts given to customers cannot show more than the last five digits of the account number. The expiration date must not be shown at all.
- The law is only applicable to customer receipts which are electronically generated. If a receipt is written by hand or imprinted (where a carbon copy of your card is made) then a business is not required to truncate or mask any information.
- Unfortunately, the law does not apply to receipts kept by the business for their own records.
So going back to your question… the store did not meet the credit card receipt requirements if the copy you received was electronically printed. If that’s the case, I would recommend bringing it to their attention.
Situations to watch out for
Despite the fact that this law was passed close to a decade ago, there are still a number of situations you may encounter where businesses are legally including your full account number on the receipt. Here are a couple situations I have encountered myself:
- When I took a shuttle from the Miami airport to a hotel, the driver used a carbon copier for credit card transactions. I found this surprising, given that it was a major company.
- At a swap meet, I came across a seller that was processing credit cards by writing down the account numbers on a receipt log, to be processed later. As you can expect, I did not buy from him for that reason.
Can you sue a business when they break this law?
If the full credit card number is illegally printed on a receipt (and a court of law agrees) then the consumer can hold the business liable for statutory damages between $100 to $1,000 or actual damages resulting from it.
However you shouldn’t make a mountain out of a molehill if no identity theft occurred. Rather, I would advise sternly addressing the merchant and informing them of their violation. If they don’t care or don’t correct the issue in a timely manner, only then would I consider taking it to the next level.